The standard cataract surgical procedure is typically
performed in either a hospital or in an ambulatory surgery center. The most common form of cataract
surgery today is a process called phacoemulsification.
With the use of an operating microscope, your surgeon will make a very small
incision in the surface of the eye in or near the cornea. A thin ultrasound
probe is inserted
into the eye that uses ultrasonic vibrations to dissolve (phacoemulsify) the
clouded lens. These tiny fragmented pieces are then suctioned out through the
same ultrasound probe. Once the cataract is removed, an artificial lens is
placed into the same thin capsular bag that the cataract occupied. This
intraocular lens is essential to help your eye focus after surgery.
There are three basic techniques for cataract surgery:
- Phacoemulsification: This is the most common form of
cataract removal as explained above. In this most modern method, cataract
surgery can usually be performed in less than 30 minutes and usually requires
only minimal sedation and numbing drops, no stitches to close the wound, and
no eye patch after surgery.
- Extracapsular cataract surgery: This procedure is used
mainly for very advanced cataracts where the lens is too dense to dissolve
into fragments (phacoemulsify) or in facilities that do not have
phacoemulsification technology. This technique requires a larger incision so
that the cataract can be removed in one piece without being fragmented inside
the eye. An artificial lens is placed in the same capsular bag as with the
phacoemulsification technique. This surgical technique requires a various
number of sutures to close the larger wound, and visual recovery is often
slower. Extracapsular cataract extraction usually requires an injection of
numbing medication around the eye and an eye patch after surgery.
- Intracapsular cataract surgery: This surgical technique requires an even larger wound than extracapsular surgery, and the surgeon removes the entire lens and the surrounding capsule together. This technique requires the intraocular lens to be placed in a different location, in front of the iris. This method is rarely used today but can be still be useful in cases of significant trauma.
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